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Great Britain the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science At its zenith the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earths surface The first half of the 20th century saw the UKs strength seriously depleted in two World Wars The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council a founding member of NATO and of the Commonwealth the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe A member of the EU it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union for the time being Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK The Scottish Parliament the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999 but the latter is suspended due to wrangling over the peace process Geography Great Britain is located in Western Europe islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea northwest of France Great Britain has a temperate climate moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current more than one-half of the days are overcast Its natural resources are coal petroleum natural gas iron ore lead zinc gold tin limestone salt clay chalk gypsum potash silica sand slate arable land Social There is an old saying the sun never sets on the Empire of Great Britain due to how the people colonized distant lands Great Britain is the fourth most populous country in Europe The English constitute more than 80 of the nations inhabitants The Scottish makes up nearly 10 and there are smaller groups of Irish and Welsh descent Great Britains population has shown increasing ethnic diversity
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